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Paralympic gold medalist and former F1 driver Zanardi in serious but stable condition after crash

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Alex Zanardi rides during the cycling portion of the Ironman World Championship Triathlon, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, October 10, 2015
Alex Zanardi rides during the cycling portion of the Ironman World Championship Triathlon, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, October 10, 2015   -   Copyright  Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo
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Alex Zanardi, an Italian race-car champion turned paralympic gold medalist, is in "serious" but "stable" condition after crashing into a lorry during a handbike relay race on Friday.

The former Formula One driver is currently hooked up to an artificial ventilator at the Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital in Siena, central Italy.

“He arrived here with major facial cranial trauma - a smashed face", surgeon Giuseppe Olivieri said on Saturday. “The numbers are good, although it remains a very serious situation,” he added.

The accident occurred near the Tuscan town of Pienza.

Zanardi was transported to hospital via helicopter and underwent “a delicate neurosurgery operation” due to “severe cranial trauma.”

The surgery lasted about three hours, after which Zanardi was moved to the intensive care unit.

“We won’t see what his neurological state is until he wakes up. Improvement takes time in these cases. Turns for the worse can be sudden,” Olivieri said.

53-year-old Zanardi won two CART championships in the US and raced in Formula One between 1991 and 1999 with the Jordan, Minardi, Lotus and Williams teams.

In 2001, he suffered a horrific accident that cost him both of his legs during a CART event in Germany.

During his recovery, Zanardi designed his own prosthetics and learned to walk again.

He then turned his attention to hand-cycling and developed into a hugely successful athlete, winning four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, as well as setting an Ironman record in his class in 2019.